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Essex County Council’s £27.7 million Independent Living programme is a hit in parliament and with residents

2 December 2016

Essex County Council’s innovative approach towards housing and care for older people – recently welcomed in Parliament as an example for other local authorities to follow – is a hit with Essex residents too.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing and Care for Older People acknowledged ECC’s Independent Living housing programme in the House of Lords on Monday 31 October.

Independent Living is attractive, self-contained housing with 24 hour care and support on-site.

Around 2,000 Essex residents will benefit from ECC’s £27.7 million investment in the programme to meet demand for housing options that can support and enable older people to live independently.

The new Independent Living homes will be created around the county between now and 2021.

The investment will enable eligible older people in the county - who would otherwise be housed in residential care, or receive domiciliary care in a home of their own that may no longer meets their needs - to live independently.

ECC Leader David Finch wrote to Chancellor Phillip Hammond ahead of November’s Autumn Statement, calling on him to make social care funding a priority.

And innovative initiatives like the Independent Living programme enable ECC to make long term financial savings, while at the same time significantly improving the quality and quantity of specialist housing for people in later life.

The Independent Living programme is based on the Extra Care housing model – however, currently, there are just 429 units of Extra Care housing in the county.

89-year-old Winnie Miller is a resident at the existing Helen Court Extra Care scheme in Witham.

Both Winnie and her son Dennis, 62, have felt the benefits this kind of specialist housing can bring to older people in later life.

Dennis said: “Living in a three bedroom house with stairs had become unmanageable for Mum. She wasn’t bad enough for a care home; she could live independently. But she needed to live somewhere that had an element of care. From the day she moved in, until now, Mum’s physical health, mental health and general wellbeing have improved beyond measure.”

Winnie said: “I wanted to get away because I was on my own. I feel much happier here; it’s fantastic. If I’m lonely, I go downstairs and it’s like a little family. If I want to be on my own, I close my front door and can be alone in my own home.  You please yourself, because it’s independent living. To me, it’s luxury. I’ve got everything I want. But, most importantly, it feels like home.”

Dennis added: “It’s a big wrench for older people like Mum, who have lived in the same house for 60 years, to move. I thought that it would be really difficult for her; but from day one it’s been fantastic. I’m now a tremendous exponent of the Independent Living concept. I think it’s excellent news that many more older people will have the opportunity to benefit like my Mum has.” 

ECC’s Head of Commissioning for Vulnerable People, Gary Heathcote, delivered a speech outlining the Independent Living programme to MPs, Members of the House of Lords, senior executives from private organisations and members of the public at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing and Care for Older People.

Afterwards Gary said: “It was a privilege to be invited to the House of Lords to speak at the All Party Parliamentary Group on behalf ECC. The event was a great opportunity to share our innovative approach towards housing and care for older people.

I was pleased that the Independent Living programme received such positive feedback, with other Local Authorities urged to mirror our innovative approach. ECC is committed to influencing the availability of a range of housing options for the older population, improving the lives of Essex people and enabling them to continue to live independently for longer.”

ECC is working with all district councils to identify suitable land for development to meet local demand for Independent Living housing.

The first new Independent Living scheme, Rosebank Park in Harwich, features 70 one and two bedroom flats and will open in January 2017.

The second initial scheme, Beaumont House in Walton-on-the-Naze, features 60 one and two bedroom flats and will open in spring 2017.

A third scheme, in Saffron Walden, will feature 73 one and bedroom flats and will open in early 2018.

To be eligible for Independent Living housing, an individual must be aged 55 or over, require six or more hours of care each week and have a connection to the area where the scheme is located.

An additional 19 new schemes in Braintree, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Colchester, Epping Forest, Harlow, Maldon, Rochford, Tendring and Uttlesford are also in the development pipeline.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing and Care for Older People is chaired by Peter Aldous MP and Lord Best.

Its purpose is to highlight the importance of the role of housing alongside social care and health in providing greater choice and more effective support in later life.

To find out more about Independent Living housing:

Call: 0345 6037630